Taking Your First Retreat: Excerpts from Mark’s Talks

Prelude To An Intensive
What Is Shaktipat


Taking Your First Retreat: FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Is it really EIGHT hours of meditation?

No, not at all. Usually there are about three sessions of meditation, each lasting between an hour to an hour and a half or so. (Though each Intensive is unique, and one never knows in advance what Mark has in mind…) These are interspersed with talks by Mark and plenty of nice long breaks. During the break you can walk around, stretch, do your own yoga, visit with people, and of course, eat the wonderful food that everyone has brought. []

Do I have to take my shoes off?

Again, it’s optional. Some people do and some people don’t. It’s whatever makes you most comfortable. []

Are there special clothes I need to wear?

No. Dress comfortably. There is no formal dress code. You might want to test what you’re going to wear to see if it will feel good for the longer meditations. There are no formal hatha yoga sessions, although some people bring their own yoga mats and do some stretching in between meditations. Sometimes it gets a little cooler as the day goes along. You may want to bring a sweater, blanket or shawl for the evening. []

Do I have to sit on the floor?

No, almost everyone sits in a chair, though some people prefer the floor and bring their own meditation setups or cushions. The chairs are standard folding chairs, so you may want to bring extra padding or cushions for the seat or the back if you like. Some people bring their own chairs too – like a camping folding chair. If you’d like ideas for how to sit most comfortably during long meditations, you may want to pick up this brochure: How To Sit Comfortably For Meditation. []

Is there any chanting, or is it all meditation?

Hard Light is all about meditation, and discourse. No chanting. You might hear a bit of Sanskrit at the end of meditations, which Mark occasionally ends with “Om Swaha”, which sums up the entire blessings of the session into a totality. At the end of the day, you might also hear Mark say “Sadgurunath Maharaj Ki Jai”, which translates as “Victory To All Gurus”. []

Where should I park?

Most Intensives are held at the Pacific Palisades Women’s Center, and there is plenty of free parking behind the building itself. When an Intensive is held somewhere else, we’ll post as much information as we have about the parking situation in the calendar section of the web site. []

Is food served? What kind is it?

Yes, there’s plenty of food available at each break. It’s brought potluck-style by the Hard Light participants. You’re welcome to bring something to share too of course, but first-timers are welcome as guests. Food options usually include cheeses, crackers, nuts, fruit, raw veggies, salad, Mexican food, vegan food, casseroles, gluten-free food, desserts, tea, coffee, water. Most people find that eating lightly facilitates better meditations – so don’t be tempted to eat too much at a time by all the good food you see. And many find that heavy meals or too much sugar and dessert make them drowsy too. []

What if I get sleepy during the day? Is it OK to lie down during meditation or while Mark is talking?

No. Do what you have to do to stay awake and present during the meditations and the talks. Go outside and have some fresh air, or have a cup of coffee. It’s also OK to quietly move to the side of the room and stand up, either continuing your meditation in a standing pose or listening to Mark. During the breaks only, it’s OK to find a quiet corner and stretch out for awhile. []

When does Shaktipat happen?

Shaktipat – the awakening of the Kundalini – is building up all throughout the day. Each session of Mark’s talks and the guided meditations are a component of the awakening. The culmination usually takes place during the last session of meditation at the end of the day. That’s why you don’t want to leave early, and also why it’s important to stay and be present throughout the whole day. []

How does Mark give Shaktipat?

Usually Mark walks around to each person and may tap you with a special wand he has made of peacock feathers. The peacock feathers are often used in this way by the Masters; not only is the peacock a symbol of royalty and greatness, but the hollowness of the quill is an excellent conduit for the Guru’s awakening energy to be transmitted. If you wear glasses, it’s best to take them off before the final session, as sometimes Mark’s tap brushes the head and might knock your glasses off – but don’t put them in front of you, so they don’t get stepped on. Put them away safely beforehand. 
Occasionally Mark will give Shaktipat through intention or thought, rather than by touch. In this case, he does not physically walk around, but he is definitely connecting with each person energetically. The Kundalini is awoken in either case.
You may or may not feel anything special at the time you receive Shaktipat, but the awakening will continue to unfold over the next hours, days, weeks and years of your life. Each Intensive is unique. And each time you receive Shaktipat, you are further propelled on your spiritual evolution. []

Does the Intensive end at 8:00 pm?

Sometimes, but often it runs a bit later. It’s best not to plan anything after the Intensive. The day is tremendously transformative, and you will want to give yourself the time, space and freedom to let it continue to unfold. It’s also great not to make plans for the following day either. You may want to take Sunday as a day of rest, meditation and reflection. []

Do I have to make reservations in advance, or can I just come and pay at the door?

Reservations are not needed – there will always be room for you. Be sure to come early though – at least 20 minutes early – so you have time to register, get your seat established, get some water or a snack. You can pay at the door, with cash, a check or a credit card. If you pay online in advance (no later than 9:00 am the morning of the Intensive), you get a 10% discount. []

What if I don’t understand the concepts Mark is talking about or am unfamiliar with the terminology used?

Don’t worry. Just listen as best as you can. You’ll absorb more than you think you are – in fact, at a deep level, you’re absorbing everything, and the knowledge that’s being transmitted on many levels will be available to you when you need it and when you’re ready. It takes awhile to decode what Mark is saying; he’s trying to give speech to that which is beyond description! If you’re interested, follow up the Intensive session with beginning the Deepen Your Practice program. It’s a five year curriculum that sequentially covers all aspects of the training in Hard Light. []

What if I have questions? Who do I ask? Can I talk to Mark?

You’ll find throughout the day that many of the people at the Intensive have been with Mark for many, many years, and will be very happy to talk with you about meditation, Hard Light and spiritual training. There are also a number of talks at the bookstore, and you can ask the bookstore person which of them might best address your interests. And after the Intensive, you can always ask questions using the Contact / Links form here on the web site, and you’ll get a personal answer. You’re welcome to email Mark as well through this page. He reads his email, but his response is most often given on the inner planes. It’s also fine to talk to Mark after the Intensive too. During the breaks though, he also needs some ‘down time’, so please respect his space during the day. []

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes, there’s a courtesy observed within spiritual communities that when you sit, you don’t stretch your legs out pointing towards Mark. Lots of energy comes from the feet; if you’d like to read more about it, see: The Feet of the Guru. Also, if you need to cough or clear your throat, please try and do so in between when Mark is talking, as these sounds can then easily be edited out of the final audio CD. If you cough or sneeze while he’s talking, it’s a permanent part of the talk. If you need to get a drink, or even take a quick break during a session, it’s ok to quietly slip out of the room and take care of your needs. []

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